Cummins Falls State Park is a 211 acre park located nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River. In the rolling hills of Jackson County where Putnam and Jackson counties meet, the stream gives way to a 75 foot drop.
It is known that buffalo wallowed in the river in a shallow basin about a quarter-mile east of the falls. Indians used this area to kill buffalo as they needed as indicated by the numerous arrowheads found at the site. In the 1790s, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, Sergeant Blackburn, for whom the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River is named, was awarded this land in lieu of a pension. This land was acquired by John Cummins in about 1825 on which he built the first of two water driven mills. Because of a growing clientele, a second and larger mill was built in 1845 about a half mile or so before the falls. Local area residents came to the mill and the falls for commerce and recreation. The mill was washed away in a great flood of 1928, but by then cars and paved highways had made the trek to Cummins Falls more of a discretionary trip than a necessary one. The mill was not rebuilt but this land stayed in the Cummins family for more than 180 years until a recent effort of private individuals and public institutions worked together to purchase the land for resale to the State.
This park is located in the Cordell Hull Watershed. The forest that borders the river includes a variety of oaks, beech, buckeye, sycamore and hemlock. Woodland plants include October’s lady tresses, star chickweed, liverleaf and Allegheny spurge. The property’s long forested streamside protects turkey, quail, eagles and other birds; soft-shell and other turtles; fox, mink, and myriad insects including damselflies and dragonflies.
While this section of Blackburn Fork is too shallow for boating, with cooperative agreement from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, fishing for bluegill and bass along the riverbank is permitted with a Tennessee fishing license.
It is the eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee in volume of water, and was named one of the top 10 best swimming holes in the United States in the “America’s Best Swimming Holes” article in Travel and Leisure magazine. The article reads “It’s a hard-earned scramble to the bottom that involves hiking to the overlook, wading across the ankle-deep stream, climbing up to the ridge, and using a rope guide to walk yourself down to the water. This is not a swimming hole for lightweights. Translation: expect a younger crowd. But if you’re agile (and sure-footed), the descent into the cavernous pool is worth the effort.” Alice Bruneau, June 2010
Cummins Falls State Park, 390 Cummins Falls Lane, Cookeville, TN 38501